The gathering was a fact-finding session organized by the Directorate-General for Communication Networks, Content and Technology, as it explored its new responsibilities for part of the Commission's media literacy work.
Moderator Mari Sol Perez, an EC policy officer, explained that when she first quizzed the panelists about the theme of the session, "Do media have a moral imperative to create informed citizens and support democracy?," they unanimously replied, "Of course!"
"Newspapers have been a pioneer in field of media literacy and there is an incredible variety of media literacy projects involving print and digital newspapers all across Europe," Margaret Boribon, a member of the European Newspaper Publishers Association's working group on media literacy, told the gathering.
"These projects range from kindergarten to high schools, and publishers have invested in such initiatives for many years as part of our role in cultivating a media literate and socially engaged citizenship."
Boribon, secretary general of JFB, the association of francophone Belgian news publishers, is also part of the youth engagement and news literacy committee of WAN-IFRA, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers.
She also described her own organization's "Open My Daily" initiative that began in 1998 and provides free newspapers more than a thousand of primary or secondary school as part of a its comprehensive program to examine the news. Soon, the program will emphasize digital media and information literacy as well as examine privacy issues and the elements of conspiracy theories, hate speech, etc.
WAN-IFRA's representative, Aralynn McMane, described the global origins more than 50 years ago of news publisher media and information literacy initiatives and emphasized the need to assure that any such activity start with a clear understanding some crucial basics before moving on to "deconstructing media messages."
"We have seen both media literacy research and examples of practice that either ignore the role of journalism in a democracy or nurture a hostility to even the idea of such a role," McMane. said
WAN-IFRA encourages news publishers worldwide to concentrate in their partnerships with local educators on several elements of "news literacy": How news works, its role and how to use reporter-like skills to assess all information to separate fact from fiction.
"We encourage news publishers to give young people a chance to try journalism themselves as it is one of the best ways to understand those tenets of professional journalism," she said. "We also want to help them help young people understand the integral link between press freedom and freedom of expression and the reality that some people have been put in jail or been killed for doing the journalism that defends freedoms."
Both she and Boribon offered examples of best practice by ENPA members who had also been designated WAN-IFRA Centers of Youth Engagement Excellence, by individual publishers who had won WAN-IFRA World Young Reader Prizes for their work and by publishers who had joined global initiatives:
- Netherlands: The "News in the Class" initiative of the national news media association helps teachers to include news media in their lessons, using both tablets and print. Pupils are encouraged not only to consume news, but also to actively use it, question it and reflect on it. Young people learn that news media are vital to democratic society. Most recently, it created a journalism road show that provided activities and a journalist's visit to discuss and debate the link between freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
- Finland: The Finnish Newspapers Association developed a booklet called ‘What can we say?’ to address the issues of hate speech and freedom of expression for 15 to 19 year olds. Booklet contains real news articles to spark debate about use of derogatory words and racial stereotypes.
- Mediebieftene Avis I Skolen, Norway (News in School department the national news media association) :Inspired by the Norwegian Press Complaints Commission, this activity explores ethics by showing adolescent students videos about a case of a tricky situation in which the editor must decide to publish or not some information. They then vote: “Would you publish this?” using red (NEI) or green (JA) paper. Then they learn what the editor did. Then they discuss.
In 2015 alone, WAN-IFRA's World Young Reader Prize recognized several media literacy actions by news publishing companies (details about all the 2015 winners are HERE):
- Argentina's Clarin group created an interactive journalism experience as part of the Buenos Aires Children's Museum that has let nearly half a milllion students each year since 2001 explore journalistic writing, cartooning and sportscasting (category: enduring excellence/playing with the news)
- France's news media as a whole and Denmark's Kids' News youth edition of Berlingske Media for their careful and complete reporting and explanations around the murderous "Charlie Hebdo" attacks in January 2015 that killed several leading satirical cartoonists (special category: "Teaching Freedom)
- Taiwan's United Daily News for a highly transferable activity that turns a routine classroom news quiz into an exciting classroom quiz show and Belgium's Het Belang van Limburg for organizing teacher training students to create other new formats for news quizzes (category: news in education).
WAN-IFRA supported two global actions in 2015: The second News Engagement Day in October and the second "World Teenage News Takeover" that encouraged newsrooms to yield some control of the main news offer to teenagers at least once during November. In addition, it makes several kinds of practical medial literacy guides available freely, such as "A Journalist's Guide to Meeting the Class: How not be boring when you explain how professional newsgathering works" and "Parents, Children and The News: 15 ways to start the conversation." Find these downloads and some other ideas HERE about about some first initiatives news publishers might try.
In 2013, ENPA produced "What's Your News: How newspapers and news media drive media literacy," an overview of activity in 18 member countries with forwards by Androulla Vassiliou, then European Commissioner for European Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, and Danièle Fonck, chair of ENPA's Media Literacy Working Group and director general of Editpress, Luxembourg. The publication can be downloaded here:
WAN-IFRA's Centers of Youth Engagement Excellence represent 16 national media associations around the world that have long devoted staff to helping children use and navigate the news, and that continue to do so. Details about their work can be found here: http://www.wan-ifra.org/node/139363
The Brussels session also included examples of other actions from:
- Jochen Spangenberg, innovation manager for new media at Germany's Deutsche Welle public broadcaster and also the "Reveal" social media verification project.
- Wouter Gekiere, deputy dirctor of the Brussels office, European Broadcasting Union (EBU)
- Stéphane Hoebeke, lawyer and media literacy specialist, French-speaking Belgium Public Television (RTBF)
- Cecilia Boreson, advisor, situational analysis, UR, the Swedish Educational Broadcasting Company